Saturday, 31 May 2008

Self Potrait Eureka

Okay, background and colour. Gone is the brown shaggy jumper. In it's place is a pleasing v-necked top in a didtsy neutral grey-brown. The shape is flattering. But I would never ever paint whilst wearing this outfit. I paint wearing old t-shirts, which will result in my looking shapeless again. My lines and curves, while not of Vogue proportions, are pleasing to me. I don't want this self portrait to consist of my head on top of a cardboard box, as it were. Period painter's garb? No, there's no statement I want to make there. Something outlandish? Nope. Too distracting. Hmmmm, I have an idea.

Next, background. My studio is dark and dismal, and I'm fed up of dark backgrounds. I don't feel up to painting me in-situ, because I think I won't be able to carry it off, and all my art paraphenalia in the studio will be a distraction to the viewer. I never wanted to paint a picture of my studio, I wanted to paint me, as an artist, painting.

How about an abstract background, as per Van Gogh andhis Japanese-print backdrops? A vivid yellow background is attractive at this point. Me, in neutral garb on a yellow background. but why yellow. because I can't bloddy think of of anything else. Give me a break.

Mutter, mumble, toss and turn. Backgrounds...... Attire.......

So I scan though my mental library of portraits I like, and it hits me. Egon Scheille! He comes to me in my dreams, you know, and he looks down at me from my living room wall. Remember, it's now 2.43am on Wednesday night/Thursday morning as I write this. Me, naked, on a neutral background. Egon painted himself on a chalky-white background. If I use the same idea, then I'm creating a blank canvas, which every artist starts off with, and, on it, I am the focus. This also resolves the attire issue. I am now naked, painting myself, peering in the mirror at myself, as I have done almost daily for most of my adult life. Now, I see that painting myself naked has in fact been a recurring theme since I picked up the pencil just over a year ago, so it is fitting for a self portrait at this time. You may now wish to cease following this blog fora while f you don't want to see me in the buff. You have been warned. I have no intention of following the path some other female artists have followed, you'll be glad to hear, as that's just not my bag, baby! Me, naked, is simple, honest. It eliminates fashion, and as such will free me from the chains of the 21st century. Who am I kidding, as an artists work will always be a reflection to some extent of their times and influences. The very fact that I won't be burnt at the stake for even discussing this, is a sign of our times. Again, you know what I mean anyway.

This is all word, now I need more sketches to check out the stance whilst naked, and the composition of easel and possibly another vertical. Now, can I please go to bed?

Friday, 30 May 2008

Self Portrait progress

Okay, here is the new preliminary sketch for my new, big, self portrait. I am much happier with the pose on this one because, as you can see, I'm looking at myself from the other side. I'll be painting myself while looking in the mirror, rather than working from a photo, because as I've found with previous self-portraits I can get a more solid painting than when working from a photo. Please humour me and forgive the awful drawing itself and look at the composition, if you'd be so kind. Here I am now presenting my whole body to the viewer, instead of hiding behind my 'painting' arm as before. This is a more confrontational pose, whereas the earlier one was too passive and defensive. My hands here are much more interesting and active, holding the pen or brush and probably my easel (here I grabbed a book as a prop). The canvas in the painting is now side-on so I, the artist, am the focus. Although, in the previous layout, I was interested in the idea of viewer looking at both myself and the painting within the painting, I now feel that that is too complicated for me to pull off at this time. I am much happier with this simplification, and I don't feel that your attention will be divided, with two components competing for your attention.

Although the line of the canvas in the painting is leading the eye to 1 o'clock and out of the frame, it is however balanced by the support bracket of the easel (the one dad got me this year - thanks again dad) pushing your eye in and up to the centre of the composition. I would now appreciate suggestions on this factor. I may soften the way I paint the canvas and easel , so that they merge into the background somewhat, leaving my fantastically poised 'painting' hand in sharp focus. Actually, looking at it again, I may balance this with a vertical object/line/wall on the left of the canvas, which would frame and contain me and add symmetry. . I know that symmetry isn't a fashionable idea at the moment where interior design and architecture prefers asymmetry, but I have been inclined towards is recently myself. And it is my own self-portrait after all. A vertical on both sides would also shift my own image to the centre of the canvas. This is starting to sound 'safe' and static and neutral, so I'll need to do more composition studies to test this out. I would never have thought that preliminary analysis of composition would be so much fun, but it is.

I also think that my stance is more flattering that the previous one. I acknowledge that I am basically oblong in shape, and I don't want to be accused to 'photo-shop-ing' myself. However, I have here eliminated my protruding belly and bum, while retaining my idiosyncratic stance of an arched back, slight slouch, and bent knees.

BUT, I'm writing all this, ie, yesterdays post, today's, and goodness knows how many more yet, at 2 am because images and ideas were coming in and out of focus, keeping me awake tonight, I mean last night, and I need to resolve some of these issues before I go back to bed tonight. Well, actually, yesterday from when you're reading this now. What I mean to say is that I just didn't want to post it all in one go, as each of the problems regarding this self portrait seemed to break down nicely into contained units.

So, I'm basically happy with the pose. What's next? Background. Arghh!

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Self Portrait Nightmares

Now I know why I haven't worked on my large self-portrait canvas. It's because it's all wrong to start with; the composition, my outfit, the pose itself. Everything is wrong. So, this afternoon I went to have a look at it and drew it so that I could look at it dispassionately. Who am I kidding - I can't ever be dispassionate about my own portrait. But I digress, as I actually did make some progress.

Anyway, here;s a sketch of where I was. As you can see, it's all wrong. I am too passive. The lines of the canvas I'm painting are leading the eye across and out of the frame. There's a huge gaping vacuum between my head and the canvas that sucks in the eye and leaves you dissatisfied. Also, I look like a sack of shit tied in the middle, as my mother in law once said to me. I'm dressed in a brown shaggy jumper, because it was bloody cold in late winter when I started on this project, and apart from the fact that it's a very unflattering outfit, I don't want my attire to fix me to a particular season. Please don't try to say anything positive about it at this stage please because, as you'll see, I'm throwing the whole thing metaphorically out of the window, and am starting from scratch. No, I'm not starting from scratch, as I've learnt a lot having dissected this one.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Spring Rain

Looking down from the top (4th) floor of Sunderland Library I watched shoppers dash by with umbrellas and bags.

Friday, 23 May 2008


red sandstone pebble

While on the beach in Ingoldmells I saw shells and stones that you don't get on the Roker coast. I loved the colours, and sat painting these in the sun while the kids dug a huge pit which was eventually big enough to fit my daughter in. I wanted to make a loose study of the swirling layers in a small sandstone pebble, but I was interrupted by an ice cream which needed eating fast. Still, it reminds me of the morning I sat on the sand amongst the shells and stones.shells and stones

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Southcliffe, Roker

Southcliffe, RokerAlong the seafront at Roker there are some amazing buildings; grand 3 and four storey houses, some converted to flats now, which nestle together overlooking the North Sea. I'm sure that passers-by look up at these houses, dreaming of which they'd love to live in. I know I have my favorites, where I've already picked out the master bedroom and art studio, with some additional skylights and a balcony fitted on. I even have plans for vegetable patches and treehouses in the back garden. If i were a rich man, dum de dum de dum de dum de diddle dupmpty dum de dum....

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Moleskine Exchange splinter group

empty Japanese Moleskine book
I've been distracted recently, setting up an Moley Exchange with some of my fellow bloggers from the UK, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and right across the US. You can follow our progress here.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Everyman #2

Everyman 2Down on Roker Beach I drew as many people as I could see. I was sat in a camp chair because sitting on the sane would have damaged my back, hunched over drawing while peering up at people. Added to that the sand flies, and you'll appreciate how I suffer for my art. Instead we took a picnic with us, and a selection of buckets and spades from our growing collection in the garage. The kids stripped and played with newly-made friends in the waves while I drew. I was careful to apply sun cream this time, after getting burnt forearms doing the previous everyman #1 drawing.
And I still want to do more of these. But I'd like some suggestions as to where I may take this project. Any ideas out there?

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Everyman #1

Everyman #1 at The Bungalow Cafe
On Wednesday morning I spent a couple of hours sat outside of the Bungalow Cafe, which is on the corner of the river Wear overlooking the bay and pier at Roker. But I wasn't looking east at that view. I was people watching.

If you're interested, I used a Faber-Castell Pitt artist brush pen in Indian ink, on an A3 Daler Rowney 140lb grain fin (not cold pressed) watercolour paper pad.detail
I am going to do more of these.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

..... on a British Bank Holiday

two friends leaning on railings
huddled in a bomber jacket
By early afternoon when I was doing these studies the wind got up, even though it was still sunny. Us British will sit n a beach on a bank holiday weekend in any weather. It's one of our unwritten rules, as it were.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

... all are welcome

skinny girl
woman carrying a child
It would be fun to fill a large page with dozens and dozens of people, not sticking tightly to perspective, but just jostling with each other as I see fit.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

.. every shape and size

child bending
two girls texting
It was fun trying to catch the jitz of the people I was drawing. As usual, the more I drew, the looser I got, and some of the sketches were more marks than lines made with the pen or pencil.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

.... and more people

digging in the sand
donky stall
In June this year we're going on a family holiday in the sun with my in-laws and extended family on that side. The island we'll be on has no galleries or museums or the like, and I was wondering what I'd get up to art-wise. Now I think I'll be people watching a lot while I'm there.

Monday, 5 May 2008

People Watching

mother nursing child
man texting
I wonder when that phrase became widely used and understood? Here are a couple of sketches of people on the beach. I know I've been absent, and I apologise, even though I know it's not necessary.
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